Common, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco are all well-known hip hop artists from Chicago. But did you know that Logan Square also plays a central role in Chicago’s hip hop history?
The Logan Square Eagle Monument, built in 1918, commemorates the state of Illinois and exists as a landmark and picnic spot for the neighborhood. But for a group of Chicago hip hop dancers, DJs and artists, the statue represents a different kind of legacy. The monument is revered as a spot important to the Chicago hip hop scene following years of b-boy battles and graffiti art that have taken place there.
On Sunday, August 4, the tradition was carried on with Writers Bench 2013, a hip hop dance competition designed to both entertain and help raise funds for the Boocoo Cultural Center in Evanston. Onlookers encountered a lively scene at the eagle that day; crowds of people, young and old, gathered around a checkerboard dance floor to watch b-boys and b-girls break, spin and show off their own personal styles. A trio of DJs set up just underneath the statue spun tunes that appealed to all generations, featuring artists ranging from the Wu Tang Clan to Robin Thicke. The vibe was fun, social and strikingly collaborative.
We tracked down the battle organizers, Antonette “Tonic” Carpio (@tonicchitribe) and Auristela “Lady Champ” Nuñez, both dancers themselves, to find out more about the event and the hip hop community in Logan Square.
How long have each of you been dancing?
Lady Champ: I’m known in the Hip Hop community as Lady Champ, representing Chicago Champions Crew and Collective 7. I’m a b-girl (female break dancer) and have been breaking off and on since 1992. I have battled, thrown competitions, judged competitions, modeled, spoken on panels, been featured in music videos and magazines and have traveled the world through breaking. In 2006, I was in a documentary called All The Ladies Say by Anna Rocafella Garcia. The film highlights the lives of six iconic female street dancers from San Jose, Atlanta, Miami and Chicago, who have all carved a niche in the physically challenging and male dominated world of break dance.
Tonic: I have been dancing and competing since 2006. I am passionate about house dance and I teach classes, master workshops and private lessons.
What was your goal in organizing the Writers Bench 2013?
Tonic: Our mission was to give the community a free event that promoted artistic freedom, creativity and positivity through music and dance. There was an all-styles battle, b-boy battle, exhibition battle, live art showcases and live music. We wanted to inspire the youth and community with creative thinking and promote artistic freedom.
What kind of response did you receive?
Lady Champ: We received all kinds of compliments and love from everyone there. We made everyone feel safe and welcome. If we had the funds to do it more than once a year, we would; it’s a great honor for us to bring peace, love, unity and fun to all communities.
How was the battle winner decided? Who won?
Tonic: The person who won the allstyles battle was Adam “Rhematic” Myhand from All Day crew (Twin Cities, MN) (Check out Rhematic, in the green T-shirt, battling here). The person who won the b-boy battle was Imram “Ram” Hamidi (Chicago Tribe crew). The battle started with 32 contestants in a preliminary round. From those 32 competitors, the judges picked the top 16 to compete in the next round. From there, 16 people competed in a one-versus-one battle and then judges picked the winner after each round. So it went from the top 16 to eight, to four and then to finals. The winners won a Logan Square eagle trophy for the category battle, $100 in cash, a certificate to Chief Threadz vintage gear and other prizes.
What’s the best thing about producing Writers Bench 2013?
Lady Champ: The best thing for me is that through hip hop we are able to bring communities together. It makes me so happy to show that even though we live in a city that is known for crime, we can also be known for making great things happen in the community. I also love that we were able to raise money for the Boocoo Cultural Center in Evanston. We need places for the youth to go to learn fun things and interact with other kids.
Do you plan to hold similar events in the future?
Lady Champ: Yes, I do plan to keep throwing the Writers Bench every year and I hope to also get involved with Tonic and put together fun events year round.
Tonic: I definitely liked working with Lady Champ. I especially like the fact that we are both strong, independent women organizing an event that has been mostly dominated by men in this scene. I don’t know what the future will bring, but I will most likely keep going with her and definitely with my crew, Chicago Tribe.